Social media budgets often takes a backseat to search. After all, it’s easier to measure the ROI of search, so marketers see it as a safer bet.
First, it’s easier to tie SEO and PPC directly to sales than, say, tweets or Facebook likes. Second, search offers an element of intentional targeting: whereas social users log-on to socialize, search users are actively looking for something – and probably that much closer to a purchasing decisions.
After all, search engines look for these “social signals” because they want to show human beings the most relevant search results. And what better way to determine whether something is relevant to humans than by measuring how many other human beings have said that it’s relevant?
So now, you need more than just backlinks to rank. You also need tweets, likes, and other “votes” from social users to let search engines know that your brand is relevant.
Shareable Content 101
It’s one thing to place social buttons on all your pages. But if you want to get your content (e.g. product pages) tweeted, liked, and bookmarked, you need to understand what motivates user to do so. There are a number of reasons users share content, but they usually do so because it’s:
Depending on what vertical you’re in and what kind of products/services you sell, your content can probably be made to fill one of these roles. For instance, there are also a number of elements on a page that a user can be induced to share.
- The Product/Service
- Product Description
- Product Reviews (UGC)
- Product Images/Video
The point is that marketers should be able to find some element on its pages that can attract social signals. For example, if you sell quirky gadgets, you’ll want to make it easy for users to tweet, like, and Digg them.
Conversely, if you sell everyday products that users can buy any number of other websites, you might find creative ways to write product descriptions so that they’re more likely to catch the users attention, causing them to share it. Similarly, you might open things up to user reviews so that your page is more frequently updated with additional keyword content that users will want to share with their network.
So optimizing your content for shareability involves identify what elements of your content have the most sharing potential. Then you ensure that your sharing button are integrated in a way that users feel they’ll be sharing that element – and not just the page in general.
The idea behind seeding content on Facebook is to build a strong base of engaged fans so that when you share a link on Facebook, more people see it, which results in more likes and shares which do support the SEO of that link and its domain.
Now, building an engaged following on Facebook is something that requires ongoing community management. But there are two things you can do to boost your fan acquisition on Facebook.
- Design a welcome/splash tab that dares users to like your brand. This will point clearly to where the Like button is, and gives users and incentive to click it (i.e., a call to action).
- Drive traffic to the page using Facebook Ads. Through Facebook Ads, you can target users according to a variety of demographics and send users to a customized landing tab (such as your welcome/splash tab). This will allow you to drive an influx of new fans to your page, and further grow a following of users that can send out social signals about your content.
Another effective way to attract social signals is through social contest. By running social contests, you can generate immediate social signals and build your following – both on and off Facebook.
The idea behind a social contest is simple: offer users a chance to win something cool if they follow you and share your content with their network. Social contests can also be run on Twitter, Facebook, or through a blog.
- On Twitter: You can ask that users follow you and retweet a link. The retweeting will help a link go viral, and the new followers will mean a bigger reach to potentially share more of your content in the future.
- On Facebook: You can ask that people like your brand and then write on their wall. This gains you another fan to possibly like your content in the future and whose friends will see has interacted with your brand twice.
- On your blog: Users can enter a contest by leaving a comment and tweeting or liking it. Posts with a lot of comments often gain PageRank and support your overall rankings. And leveraging their personal networks helps you attract more comments.
Social News Sites
Now, people do a lot more on Twitter and Facebook than just share content. They also do everything from interact to broadcast personal updates.
But there are other online communities (such as Reddit, Digg, and StumbleUpon) that are designed specifically to share content. This makes them ideal channels for seeding content and attracting social media links that directly support your SEO.
When content is submitted to one of these sites, users can vote it up or down. When a user votes it up, it gets a link on that user’s profile page. Score.
If enough users vote for a piece of content, it appears on the home page. In the case of Digg or Reddit, both have a PageRank of 8. That means a link from a trusted site. Super score!
Then there’s all the traffic that actually gets pushed through to your site. This usually leads to additional residual links, such as from bloggers and tweets.
Of course, you can’t just submit your product pages and expect to go viral. Rather, you need a two-stage approach.
- You have to create compelling content that’s going to resonate with these communities. It might be a Top 10 blog post, an infographic, or a video, but it has to something that meets the “sharability criteria”, doesn’t try to sell anything, and was created just for that audience.
- You have to go out and promote that content. This means being social. It means creating profiles and building them up so that you have contacts and access to influencers. It means giving more to the community than you ask of it.
An interesting benefit of these social users, moreover, is that they tend to share over more than one network. So while if one of these users are willing to Digg or Stumble your content, they’ll probably like or tweet it, too.
What you have to remember with social content seeding for SEO is that it’s about the social signals – not the traffic. When people share your content, you’ll get an influx of traffic, and it’ll be nice, but it won’t convert.
Where conversions will come from is from search – where users are already looking for you. But those social signals will be what helping your content rank well in the SERPs in the first place. They’ll be telling search engines that your pages, brand, and domain are all popular with actual human beings.